Although related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship bestAlthough related by blood and residing in bordering countries; the Tudors and Stuarts (Stewarts) were far from chummy. This dramatic relationship best-suited for a soap opera is retold by Linda Porter in, “Tudors Versus Stewarts: The Fatal Inheritance of Mary, Queen of Scots”.
Having previously read two books by Porter; there are certain characteristics of the author’s writing which I was on the lookout for. As per usual, “Tudors Versus Stewarts” has a slow start which feels too much like establishing background information. This is understandable in beginning a scholarly text but Porter maintains this for approximately 100 pages. Often times, it is like reading an extended foreward.
Furthermore, Porter’s premise for “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is too explain the interactions, emotions, and psychological effects of the countries and monarchies on one another but this is lost in the shuffle. Instead, Porter simply retells the history of both countries during a set time frame and swaps back-and-forth explaining what occurred at the same time. This doesn’t adhere to her thesis, though. Common to Porter, her writing often strays on tangents creating a choppy, disjointed piece.
Although Porter does begin to find her stride and has strong moments (such as the discussion of Perkin Warbeck); she puts on emphasis on non-important areas while fluffing up minor notes, being the opposite of what the reader expects. “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is best described as being “off key”.
In Porter’s other works, she had the habit of making highly speculative or opinionated statements. This is also the case with “Tudors Versus Stewarts”. The text is filled with “Might have”, “Perhaps”, and “Must have” phrases and several admissions of, “We don’t know what happened but…” Several times, Porter concludes that, “There are no records of what was discussed but surely it was…” No Porter, you don’t “surely know” what was discussed with no records! Examples of juvenile comments include saying such as, “Later in life she [Margaret Tudor] simply looks fat” (p 143) and Margaret resenting the “crusty old earl” (p 148). These have no place in an academic piece.
Although there are admittedly some moments that Porter tries to debunk some myths (not well, as her text isn’t really annotated and she quickly moves past her attempts at debunking); on the whole “Tudors Versus Stewarts” is a recap instead of learning anything new. Again, the aim and angle of the book is unique but Porter falls short in execution.
Porter insists on sprinkling the text with mentions of Shakespeare (why are so many recent history authors begetting Shakespeare as a historian?!) and quoting poems/literature. Perhaps this is done to lighten the load but it merely works to downgrade the emphasis of “Tudors Versus Stewarts”.
The second half of “Tudors Versus Stewarts” focuses largely on Scotland. Although this is still simply a retelling and does not meet the thesis; it is a strong source for those interested in an overview of Scottish politics in the 16th century.
“Tudors Versus Stewarts” rushes at the conclusion and ends rather abruptly. Porter’s biases are clear and although she attempts to add importance to the clashing between the Tudors and Stuarts (ending with King James I of England); she failed to do anything other than present a dual biography.
Porter follows the text with an epilogue, list of key figures, notes, and bibliography while the text contains a section of black and white photo plates. It should be noted that I have read many of the secondary sources Porter used which is why the book didn’t offer me new information but this may not be the case with all readers.
Overall, Porter’s piece has a strong motive and thesis but it was not carried out to a proven point. “Tudors versus Stewarts is readable (meaning: not boring) and one will learn of many Scottish and English events but I was merely expecting more. The book is not bad and suggested for those interested in the history but it won’t blow you away. ...more
One of the central themes in the life of Henry VIII was his determination to secure his dynasty with a male heir. Although it may not have turned outOne of the central themes in the life of Henry VIII was his determination to secure his dynasty with a male heir. Although it may not have turned out the way he preferred; his children certainly were legends in their own rights. John Guy portraits the Tudor children in “The Children of Henry VIII” (not to be confused with Alison Weir’s work with the same title published years previous).
Focusing on Henry Fitzroy, Mary, Edward VI, and Elizabeth; Guy’s thesis is a bit lost. Although not attempting individual biographies, it isn’t clear if Guy is demonstrating the links and relationships between the siblings or of Henry’s relations with his children. Both paths are covered but in a somewhat choppy way (although the chronological study of the siblings in relation to each other at the same times is a positive characteristic).
Also surprising, is the lack of detail provided by Guy (he is usually Mr. Detail) and the short length of the book. “The Children of Henry VIII” is best described as a brief summary often times with Guy cutting topics off abruptly. The book is best for very new readers to the topic or for those simply wanting a quick reminder. This lack of detail results in “The Children of Henry VIII” reading like a YA history piece versus targeting adults. It is all unexpected coming from Guy.
Although the text is heavily notated, much of it also contains speculation with heavy “must have” and “would have” statements where Guy’s own thoughts and biases bleed through. Also unwelcome are such descriptions as calling Katherine of Aragon, “Forty, fat, with no son…” which are clearly elementary and spiteful in the bluntest sense of the word. On the other hand, Guy also includes some research and detective-heavy findings which explain events with more clarity than some other authors and also debunks some myths.
A strong note of “The Children of Henry VIII” is the focus on Henry Fitzroy. Although readers won’t learn much new information regarding the other offspring; the spotlight on the Duke of Richmond is very pleasing as he is often ignored.
Some other areas of complaint include Guy’s tendencies of striking off on tangents while stating ‘facts’ with firm conviction which several other historians have questioned as disputable and then never detailing or arguing for these comments. A reader new to the topic will take these with merit and as hard truths.
As “The Children of Henry VIII” progresses, it does noticeably increase in detail although the thesis is still hazy and seems more like a very light biography. Once again, however, no new information is discoursed making it better for new readers. The main notable aspect is that the book is very readable. It is easy-to-ready and yet flows smoothly (even though the topic is disjointed). “The Children of Henry VIII” satisfies those history lovers who are more into a novel-like flow versus a dry, scholarly piece.
The ending of “The Children of Henry VIII” is relatively memorable; however it lacks depth and detail similar to the rest of the book. The work remains unclear in its “point” and continues to be firmly called a summary as it does not bring the Tudors to life and doesn’t necessarily explore new information.
“The Children of Henry VIII” contains illustrations throughout the text plus color plates. The sources used are respectfully credible and include many primary works. However, the notes aren’t quite annotated.
Unfortunately, not much can be said about Guy’s work as it is so ‘light’. “The Children of Henry VIII” isn’t terrible; it merely lacks detail and depth common to Guy’s works. It is a quick 1-day read and best for intro readers to the Tudor dynasty who don’t want to be overwhelmed with facts. Although a love-her-or-hate-her author; I much recommend Alison Weir’s “The Children of Henry VIII” over John Guy’s piece. ...more
For us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading anFor us Tudorphiles, there really isn’t anything we don’t already know about one of history’s most dramatic families. So what’s the point of reading another book on the Tudor dynasty? Perhaps this can be answered by Leanda de Lisle in “Tudor: The Family Story”.
Lisle’s version of events in “Tudor” stands out instantly, as the tone presented to the reader is not simply that of a recollection of Tudor monarchy life; but the basics and underlying psychosis of the family. Lisle begins the history backtracking to Owen Tudor and his “fall” into royalty. Although nothing new is learned by the expert reader; the family history will be understood in a new light. Lisle reveals the Tudors in a smooth way in which their emotions and actions throughout the decades make clear sense. Thus, although the story isn’t new, the fresh perception is.
Lisle’s text is heavily researched and accurate, skipping the biases and speculation which are abundant even in the works of renowned historians. The pace is exciting and has a steady ratio of almost-fictional narrative to that of an academic piece. However, at times Lisle goes off on the flowery descriptions and either grazes or rushes too quickly on the historical events (I suspect that she could produce a solid HF novel).
A notable characteristic of “Tudor” is the breath of life Lisle gives to some figures who are often ignored such as Mary and Margaret Tudor (the sisters of Henry VIII) and Margaret Douglas. Plus, the chronology is solid and all major points are highlighted without jumping back-and-forth which could confuse new readers.
Lisle seamlessly interweaves the text with descriptions of ‘everyday’ life/culture which instead of feeling like tangents; clearly sets the stage for Tudor lie and again: makes everything clear and understandable. “Tudor” is also filled with anticipation, with even the seasoned Tudorphile wanting to know what happens (even though he or she already knows).
On the negative end, Lisle has the habit of mentioning a thought or idea which is contrary to popular belief but doesn’t elaborate or offer clear sources. I would welcome new angles but need details. Also slightly annoying is Lisle maintaining the trend of quoting Shakespeare within her historic text. Shakespeare was NOT a historian and his plays were just that: plays. Not sure why so many authors insist on this.
The second half of “Tudor” has more of a detective focus with Lisle debunking some much-talked about Tudor myths. The only issue with this is a lack of description/argument and notes with holes in the connection (I had many, “You got this from that?!” moments). Despite this, Lisle also displayed the strength of not following stereotypes in “Tudor”: Mary isn’t vilified, Elizabeth isn’t glorified, etc. Instead, Lisle simply sees the strengths and weaknesses of each figurehead.
The conclusion of “Tudor” is exceptionally strong, wrapping up Elizabeth’s reign (but again, not overly romanticizing her); flowing into a memorable, well-rounded Epilogue in which Lisle truly brings home the Tudor message in a way not many history books have. Lisle doesn’t just stop there, as she briefly discusses some Tudor myths in the Appendices. For those readers who enjoy notes, Lisle offers pages worth while also serving up color plates and genealogical trees.
Even though one may not experience new information on the pages of “Tudor”, the presentation is entirely new. Versus a straightforward look at Tudor history, Lisle opens up the personal view of the Tudors and how THEY viewed themselves which explains their actions better then a simple look at their political actions. Lisle successfully treads a middle ground where readers both new and old to the topic will find enjoyment. “Tudor” is well-written and extremely readable with Lisle showing a marked improvement in her writing (it is obvious that she has more great things in store). Although not perfect, “Tudor” is very much recommended for anyone and everyone interested in the topic.
Note: My rating is more of a 4.5 but rounded to 4 versus 5 ...more
Although Peter Hammond’s “The Tower of London” is quite possibly a pamphlet/ program distributed to tourists; its glorious illustrations and insightfuAlthough Peter Hammond’s “The Tower of London” is quite possibly a pamphlet/ program distributed to tourists; its glorious illustrations and insightful history still provides an enjoyable, quick read for Anglophiles.
“The Tower of London” opens with an overall history recap of the Tower of London from the first stones ordered by William the Conqueror to modern-day tourism. Although this introduction is beautifully supplemented by colorful illustrations and photographs, it is a brief overview: simply written (easy enough for middle-aged children) and thus lacking an overemphasis of detail. However, even without extensive depth, it still garners interest and prepares the reader for the second section of “The Tower of London”.
Hammond’s second portion, titled “The Buildings of the Tower”, dives into a closer portrait account of each section of the Tower (individual towers, wards, etc). Hammond presents various facets of information from the conception of the White Tower to floor plans, history to current occupants, and even the materials (types of stones) used. This detail is not cumbersome and instead brings the Tower to life along with the illustrations.
Although highly informative, “The Tower of London” is purely a factual presentation and is therefore not necessarily an entertaining reading in a narrative sense. The text lacks character or wit, however; it is a wealth of information for those interested in the topic (basically, it is very academic and reads like a school book).
The main highlight is the two-page centerfold of the entire Tower complex with each building and portion well-labeled. This centerfold shows the grandiosity of the Tower and is designed to impress the reader while providing a “go-to” illustration when reading the text.
A major complaint against “The Tower of London” was the mention of Jane Grey’s death being merely due to suffering “for her descent from Henry VII which made her, despite herself, a rival to Mary” versus indicating her “Nine Days Queen” reputation.
The end of “The Tower of London” is quite strong describing the many tourist attractions and events at the tower (the Royal Armouries, Crown Jewels, the Changing of the Guards, Ceremony of the Keys, the “Ravenmaster”, etc); soliciting excitement from the reader. I am even more excited to visit the Tower than I was before (I didn’t know that was possible)! Overall, “The Tower of London” is an informative guide which will satisfy a tourist or Anglophile for a quick read or browse. ...more
Not everyone is able to look past the sullied “Bloody Mary” image of Henry VIII’s eldest daughter in order to see the ‘real’ Mary. Her life was filledNot everyone is able to look past the sullied “Bloody Mary” image of Henry VIII’s eldest daughter in order to see the ‘real’ Mary. Her life was filled with ups and downs, trials and triumphs; which would affect the mental state of anyone dead or alive. HFM Prescott follows Mary’s life in, “Mary Tudor: The Spanish Tudor”.
Prescott’s portrait of Mary is award-winning (in 1941) and thus definitely has both strong suits and weaknesses. “Mary Tudor” plunges into the childhood of Mary with accuracy and drive. The issue is with inconsistent storytelling. For one, Prescott is very dry in her narrative. I enjoy and even prefer academic pieces but the text is too much of a recanting of events versus truly illuminating Mary and her thoughts, actions, and life. Second, there are overly dramatized and speculative statements which stand out amongst the work that strives to otherwise be so factual.
Also noticeable is Prescott’s habit of choppy writing: jumping from detail to barely grazing a topic and back to heavy detail. The events which are most momentous in Mary’s life are barely discussed and when they are; they are told with a dry and detached tone, taking away from their unique value and impact. This makes much of “Mary Tudor” better as a review of the topic or an introduction for those new to the subject worried about being overwhelmed.
On a positive note, Prescott does apply some detective work and attempts to debunk some myths with solid and educated arguments versus merely loading the text with emotion and biases. Mary therefore receives a better-rounded portrayal than she is given by most other authors.
A compelling feature within “Mary Tudor” is the inclusion of full quotes, letters, and documents allowing Mary to speak for herself, at times. On the other hand, Prescott doesn’t always translate foreign language statements which not only confuses the reader but takes away from the ‘moment’. Plus, the text often deviates and runs off on tangents attempting to embody Mary’s environment but instead highlights everything but her.
As naturally expected, “Mary Tudor” gains some momentum when Mary secures the throne. Instead of a straight, chronological biography; Prescott opts to focus on how events affect Mary’s already fragile psychological state and her actions/reactions, in turn. This helps unwrap Mary’s layers and allows readers to see past the superficial propaganda (especially in the topic of her marriage to Philip).
Even though I disagree with the name calling and slander of Mary; I don’t sympathize with belittling her enemies with juvenile libel, either. That is simply an elementary form of “debate” which Prescott is guilty of in her concluding chapters. Two wrongs don’t make a right, they say!
The final chapters of “Mary Tudor” provide a detailed and thorough look at the loss of Calais; revealing the military, political, and emotional ramifications adding a boost at the end of the book. Sadly though, the conclusion is abrupt and rushed with Mary suddenly being sick and dying but with no depth in presentation even though the book is supposed be her spotlight. In the most blunt terms, the ending is poor and lacks memorable essences.
Prescott does follow this with an exceptionable explanation of the book’s sources which is useful for Tudor readers overall (versus singularly for this book). “Notes” are also offered (although this is more of a sources list without elaboration) and color plates (black and white) are also featured. “Mary Tudor” does not contain genealogical charts.
“Mary Tudor” is not a terrible book but somewhat dry and doesn’t bring Mary to life. Seemingly though, that is precisely the perfect recipe for a strong resource for research but not necessarily as an ideal text for reading as a pleasure piece. Prescott’s “Mary Tudor” is recommended for those readers swayed towards Mary but not for all Tudor fans, overall.
Oh, David Loades. Sadly, you did not impress me with this piece of work.
The concept of the Tudor Queens of England grabbed my attention instantly andOh, David Loades. Sadly, you did not impress me with this piece of work.
The concept of the Tudor Queens of England grabbed my attention instantly and I proceeded to prder the book from another library branch. I have read tons of history books on female members of the royalty, mistresses, wives, etc. Thus, even though I know most of the information, this book seemed perfect for me!
Wrong! I found Tudor Queens of England to be far too dry, basic, and just plainly, uninteresting. None of the facts were unheard, it was just an overview; and the passages moved far too slowly. If you are a history buff just joing the Tudor World, then this book is for you. If you consider yourself an expert, you can skip this slow book and you won't lose out because we already know all of the contents.
Don't misunderstand, Loades is a well-known author in the drama but this book is a bit of a slip....more
Truly the case of a victim (of sorts) being made out to be the blood-thirsty "bad guy", Mary Tudor unfortunately has a bad reputation. Although this vTruly the case of a victim (of sorts) being made out to be the blood-thirsty "bad guy", Mary Tudor unfortunately has a bad reputation. Although this viewpoint has been more than avidly blamed on Elizabethan propaganda, the image remains. Linda Porter dives past the traditional stereotypes and bad blood (pun intended); to present Mary's reasoning behind her actions and her remaining scars from childhood of much pain.
In terms of biographies, this is a rather inclusive portrait of Mary Tudor and wonderful for those seeking a book with more detail on her versus just an overview. Much overshadowed by younger half-sister Elizabeth, it is time for Mary to shine. I mean, she WAS England FIRST queen regnant. Although at times Porter seems to beg for pity, Mary true personality still shines through and one finally understands her convictions and actions. Mary is a strong and passionate female who could teach a thing or two to today's modern youth. Her zeal is beyond what an average child today can even try to encompass.
Smooth, easy-flowing, and filled with factual information over opinions and speculation, Linda Porter's work is intended to demyth Marian oppositions. Certainly recommended for those who merely root for Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth but wanting to see a clearer picture. ...more
I know what you may be thinking: that you love Elizabeth I and that Mary is just, well, her depressed older-half sister who as a staunch Catholic hadI know what you may be thinking: that you love Elizabeth I and that Mary is just, well, her depressed older-half sister who as a staunch Catholic had 300 heretics burned. What you must realize is that Mary was a trailblazer as the first Queen of England, she paved the way for Elizabeth. There would be no Elizabeth without Mary. Mary was a fighter and fought for her throne: literally. Her coup was the most succesful revolt against central government in 16th-century England.
If you are interested in discovering the world of Mary which goes far beyond the confines of popular propaganda via John Knox and John Foxe depicting her a conservative, "bloody", and evil leader; then settle down with a copy of this book. Whitelock provides a overview of Mary's entire life from the moment of birth to her death (that would be 42 years). Sadly, this novel is less annotated than would be preferable and there are no facts or revealing information which you haven't heard before so you won't be left astounded. Simply put, Whitelock's offering is better as a refresher course on Mary Tudor's life or as an introduction to someone who may have never read about her before.
One of the stronger highlights was the explanation regarding the loss of Calais to the French. Mary is always blamed for this loss (and she has revealed that it was her biggest heartbreak) but most books never go beyond the accusation of her loss. Whitelock dives deeper and explains how although against popular sentiment, Mary had to enter war against the French because of rebellions against her person backed by the French. Garrisons weren't properly protected and the council and parliment refused to supply the men in Calais so basically the loss resulted in fingers pointing in every direction on who was to blame. Like any war where the victory is attributed to the leader, conversely the loss was blamed on Mary. This is the first book to make these actions clear.
Unfortunately, I do have some complaints. The book has some sequencing issues and would jump from explaining events in one year and then back track and go ahead once more. It can get confusing if you are the type of reader who liked to keep track of dates. Additionally, the cause of reversing Mary's poor reputation was somewhat lost. If you are writing a book to change popular opinions, you have to be argumentative, vindicative, and strong. The epiloque was more moving and against the propaganda than the actual text. Basically, the book doesn't sway you until the end.
Again, not a bad choice as a refresher or an introduction to Mary and certainly (despite my complaints) a interesting and smooth-paced read. ...more
Although I wouldn’t say I’m a “Tudor Expert” (okay maybe I would); I do like to think I am well-versed on the topic. I first read Alison Weir’s “The CAlthough I wouldn’t say I’m a “Tudor Expert” (okay maybe I would); I do like to think I am well-versed on the topic. I first read Alison Weir’s “The Children of Henry VIII” almost a decade ago before I was as acquainted with the Tudor dynasty. Although both are far different experiences, re-reading this history piece still brought enjoyment (once-again).
Immediately in the first sentence of the Preface, Weir states that The Children of Henry VIII “…is not a history of England during the troubles reigns of Edward VI, Jane Grey [let’s stress for the beginner Tudor reader that Jane was NOT Henry’s daughter], Mary I, and Elizabeth I, but a chronicle of the personal lives of four English sovereigns and the relationships between them…” While this is true that Weir does not dive too deeply into the political landscape of the aforementioned individuals and focuses more on the social and personal aspects of these leaders; the text still doesn’t give the desired look into the psyche of these sovereigns as perhaps expected. Rather then REALLY getting to “know” theses individuals and experiencing their histories, Weir basically just tells their stories.
Despite this, Weir keeps a smooth chronological sequence of events and instead of sectioning off chapters for each king/queen; she intertwines events in order to show equal-time incidents in various lives (I.E. While Mary was “fill in the blank”, Elizabeth was doing…). This creates a full picture of the Tudors which is especially insightful to those readers newer to the topic at hand. For those more familiar, The Children of Henry VIII is a terrific refresher course (plus, it has some details which you may have not read elsewhere).
As usual with Weir, her research is extensive and annotated while also including quotes and chunks of letters/documents while presenting a text which is well-paced and smooth versus overly scholarly. One of the positives is that Weir did not demonstrate an overly-biased view towards any of the sovereigns, telling their domestic affairs with equal validity. Another optimistic feature were the biographical snippets on other influential figures which provided insight into in the lives of well-known but lesser written about personages.
As The Children of Henry VIII progressed, it became increasingly more detailed, and for lack of a better description, more entertaining; while being accompanied by strong sources such as Edward’s diary entries and Elizabeth’s household account books. Even having read this book in the past, I still eagerly turned the pages and was engaged by Weir’s storytelling (although, she was at times repetitive and would reiterate phrases).
The majority of the book followed Mary’s reign, helping bring her to life and almost read like a single Mary biography which may deter some readers (but was welcomed by me, as a fan of Mary). Even though I know a great deal about Mary Tudor; there were some details and statistics I was unaware of. It is always riveting to learn something new.
The Children of Henry VIII is a rather solid look into the heirs to Henry VIII’s throne and the events which connected them. Although the book could have presented more details on the other sovereigns aside from Mary (Weir ends the book at Elizabeth’s accession to the throne); this glimpse into the Tudor world is engaging and certainly worth reading about.